This week I finally found success in a search that I have been pursuing for a few years.
I had written in a previous post that I had taught in an isolated Inuit community from 1967 -1969. There were less than 200 people in the community. It was a two year period that had a tremendous impact on my life.
At the time the settlement was called Wakeham Bay. Today it is called Kangiqsujuaq which means large bay. It is 1500 miles north of Montreal. We flew 1200 miles to an administration center and then another three hundred miles on a bush plane which banged along a 100 mile an hour. We landed on the sea and the idea was to hit the top of the swell and bounce to the top of the next swell until speed was reduced enough to settle into the water. That was one of many things that contributed to the impact.
For a few years after I left in 1969 there was some limited contact and then everything dried up. So for the last few years I have been searching the Internet. It was easy to Google and get a map and pictures, but I wanted to find out about the people. I thought that they probably weren't on the Internet so I didn't really dig. What happened to my students?
This week I finally made a hit and that led to many other leads. It was extremely gratifying to find that some of my former students had assumed significant leadership positions. One former student is the mayor. Some had excelled in business and others in the arts. I was very surprised to find out that they had been responsible for making a series of TV programs for the Inuit. It was also sad to learn that some of the older people had died. I had come to highly regard the adults at that time so to find the they had passed away was sad.
In 1967 when I arrived the school had been open for five years. These people had only recently moved off the land into a settlement. They were still excellent and successful hunters. I was given some of the wild game and will remember the taste as well as their kindness and generosity. I had seal, arctic char, caribou, ptarmigan and mussels. I didn't like the mussels as they were very coarse but who could resist when some little kid with a runny nose showed up at the door with a pail of mussels. They always knew they would get fifty cents.
The adults spoke only a few words of English. I used an interpreter. These people were talented
sculptures with soapstone. Each day after school they would bring carvings which I bought for the Government. I always watch for carvings from that area.
One fellow who I will never forget was the oblate missionary. He was Belgian and had a very French accent. Pere Dion had to be extremely independent as the church support he received was limited. His parish was 10 to 20. He had been in the area for 12 years and knew all people well. It was fascinating to find that Pere Dion is still there and continuing the mission at age 89. About the only thing different is that he has a brilliant red sporty KIA. When I was there there were no roads and no vehicles.
So this week was exciting as it took me back to some very fond memories. Even though I left Kangiqsujuaq 43 years ago the memories and influence are always with me. I still have some more searching to do.